So with the 2018 fixture set to be announced next week, I thought I’d take a gander and try and schedule my ideal Round 1 fixtures for next year.
This is keeping in mind North Melbourne and Gold Coast are locked in while Carlton and Richmond have a monopoly of sorts on the season opener.
Thursday night: Richmond versus Carlton
Venue: Melbourne Cricket Ground
It’s the traditional match-up to open the AFL season dating to when Chris Judd and Ben Cousins still ran amok for Carlton and Richmond respectively. Despite those two having long retired, the game remains a staple and a crowd-puller. This year shouldn’t be any different, with Richmond getting the chance to unveil their newly minted 2017 premiership flag against an up-and-coming Carlton side in front of a packed MCG. Why mess with tradition if it works?
Friday night: Essendon versus Port Adelaide
Venue: Etihad Stadium
Moving across to Etihad Stadium, we see two of the off-seasons biggest movers and shakers do battle. Essendon, now firmly in the conversation of premiership contention, will debut Devon Smith, Adam Saad and the controversial yet thrilling Jake Stringer to a home crowd. A remodelled Port Adelaide featuring the enigmatic Steven Motlop, Jack Watts and Tom Rockliff will also be out to prove their credentials in what could be a classic between two entertaining sides with big ambitions. It also helps that Essendon’s membership is skyrocketing and Port has a strong travelling fan base.
Saturday midday: Gold Coast versus North Melbourne
Venue: Cazaly Stadium
This could be either the worst football game ever or a tight, riveting contest. There is no middle-ground. One of the locked in games, this match shapes as the battle of the rebuilds, with Stuart Dew taking the reigns as a senior coach for the first time at the Suns. Much of the interest will be centred on how the Suns deal without Gary ‘the GOAT’ Ablett, the reigning club best and fairest winner who’s now at the Cats. I’d say there’s possible interest to see if Gold Coast can pull a crowd in Cairns with the new draftees, but it feels like a long season is on the cards for both teams.
Saturday twilight: Sydney versus Greater Western Sydney
Venue: Sydney Cricket Ground
One of two derbies on a packed Saturday schedule, we travel to the SCG to see the Battle of the Bridge. Two strong teams in GWS and Sydney will harbour dreams of finals, and this will test each team’s abilities early on. This does need to be Sydney’s home game as GWS will have their fortress turned into a literal farmyard for the Sydney Royal Easter Show. Both house more than enough talent to entertain, though. It should be genuinely refreshing to see a quality game following North and the Suns.
Saturday prime time: Collingwood versus Melbourne
Venue: Melbourne Cricket Ground
Melbourne fans, fresh off complaining about the Jack Watts trade, will crack open the cheese platters and caviar as their team yet again tries to make finals with its plethora of exciting players. Overall I am not expecting much from Collingwood, but they can play well on their day and they draw an incredibly good crowd. Nathan Buckley will look to repay the faith of his club with a win.
In an idea mooted by Eddie McGuire, Collingwood are looking to cash-in on its growing rivalry with Melbourne by hosting a game between the two. Melbourne is desperate to hold the rights to the traditional Queen’s Birthday game, so this serves as an interesting prequel and should feature a packed MCG. The last coach who was shown faith was Damien Hardwick, and we all know that story, so who knows?
Sunday midday: St Kilda versus Western Bulldogs
Venue: Etihad Stadium
This fixture is listed mainly because all the other teams were taken out, but the Saints and the Bulldogs both underdelivered last year and will be looking to bounce back. Both triggered some action in the trade period, though nothing of note, and both could make finals – or they could not. Either way no-one would be shocked. This should be a close contest, though.
Sunday midday: Adelaide versus Brisbane
Venue: Adelaide Oval
Watching Adelaide unveil Bryce Gibbs to an already great midfield unit will be good to watch. There is some lingering angst from sections of Crows fans towards Charlie Cameron, which is cool, and Adelaide Oval is a cracking stadium to watch football in. Plus Luke Hodge, love him or hate him, comes out of his short-lived retirement and proves, yes, some people actually want to go to Brisbane. Why? We don’t know.
Sunday twilight: Geelong versus Hawthorn
Venue: Simonds Stadium
Normally an Easter staple, we bring this match forward see the return of Gary ‘the GOAT’ Ablett to the Cattery. That alone is worth the price of admission. With Jeff Kennett returning to Hawthorn as well, it feels like a throwback to 2007-09, a simpler time when Hawthorn hadn’t single-handedly dominated the league and taken the fun out of football and when Geelong had Max Rooke, a footballer’s footballer. These are two rivals to start an awesome Sunday night.
Sunday prime time: Fremantle versus West Coast
Venue: Perth Stadium
These are the facts:
The answer is to host the West Australian Derby in Round 1 at Perth Stadum. In what will be a packed house, Fremantle will showcase offensive weapon Nathan Wilson and Brendan Matera alongside the injury-prone and incredibly talented Nate Fyfe. The sheer thought of Ross Lyon’s teams playing offensively is dizzying. Then West Coast are bringing through a new generation and shedding the Dad’s Army tag – which is good and all, but their season relies on Nic Naitanui being fit. If that happens, the Eagles may have something to shout about. Derbies are fiercely contested, and with each team placing emphasis on speed, it should be a terrific way to end.
So, Roarers, how would you schedule Round 1 of 2018?